Media turnout at conference is biggest the party has ever seen

The first media briefing of the ANC’s 54th national conference saw secretary general Gwede Mantashe swallowed in a sea of cameras and reporters with notebooks and recording devices.

The media briefing room at the Nasrec expo centre in Johannesburg, where the conference is being held, was filled with journalists who came from various parts of the world to
witness what has been dubbed the ANC’s most contested elective conference ever.

Despite the two large speakers in the room, Mantashe’s voice was barely audible over the heads of journalists who represented just a fraction of the 1 200 attending the conference.

“This is the biggest turnout we’ve ever had, it’s bigger than the [football] World Cup,” said ANC communications manager Khusela Sangoni.

For journalists, just being on the Nasrec premises — even without the possession of the coveted plenary accreditation tag — is a privilege, considering the tight accreditation process that preceded the event.

Even among the 1 200 who have been finally accredited, not all are equal.

Only 200 have been bestowed with the privilege of possessing the pink “plenary” tag that allows entry into the main hall where the official addresses will be delivered.

For some media personnel the journey to being accredited with the “pink tag” has involved rejection, bargaining, pleading, begging and the eventual acceptance of whatever decision was given.

According to Sangoni, the party received nearly 4 000 media applications from journalists wanting to attend the conference.

But, with the number of reporters threatening to equal the number of ANC delegates attending the conference, Sangoni and her team were forced to slash the list of applicants by more than half.

Sangoni said first preference was given to local media and, despite initial concerns from some community media outlets that they may be sidelined, smaller media houses were also represented.

“We tried as much as we could to have a balance. We operated on an 80-20 principle — 80% being our South African media and 20% being international media,” Sangoni said.

“And within that 80% we tried our best to accommodate everyone. Unfortunately there were some people who applied who did not have any media house that they belonged to, but we really tried our best,” she added.

Those who have survived the road to being accredited now have a poorly-ventilated media lounge, slow wi-fi and access restricted by wire fences to look forward to for the next four days.

Still, these misgivings will be tolerated in the quest to witness the end of president Jacob Zuma’s term and the election of a new ANC leader.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Dineo Bendile
Dineo Bendile works from Johannesburg. Political reporter. BLACK. Dineo Bendile has over 2712 followers on Twitter.

Zuma turns on judiciary as trial nears

Former president says pre-trial correspondence is part of another plot

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

Lockdown relief scheme payouts to employees tops R14-billion

Now employers and employees can apply to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for relief scheme payments

Press Releases

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

Openview, now powered by two million homes

The future of free-to-air satellite TV is celebrating having two million viewers by giving away two homes worth R2-million

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday